Category Archives: Lebanon

Jounieh Dream Beach House

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I live in Jounieh yet I’ve never spotted this house. It is a private residence designed by New York-based architects SOMA right on the Mediterranean sea. In order to defend against the waves, there’s a mechanism that deflects them and the glass is “a patented system of laminated glazing supported by structural steel, capable of withstanding the strongest waves of these winter storms”. [Source]

I would love to be in that house during a storm (or any other day of course). You can read more about it [here].

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Promoting Religious Tourism in Lebanon: Our Lady of Mantara, Maghdouche

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Lebanon is one of the oldest countries in the world and has been at the heart of the growth of Christianity and Islam. Christianity has had a long presence of over two thousand years in Lebanon and churches, basilicas, cathedrals, shrines, monasteries and caves can be found almost all over our land. Unfortunately, religious tourism has been neglected for years in Lebanon and a lot of important and historic shrines and monuments are unknown to most Lebanese.

One of them is Our Lady of Mantara (The Wait) in the town of Maghdouche in the South. Being from the South, I’ve heard a lot about this place but I know a lot of people who don’t even know how ancient and symbolic this place and more specifically the grotto that was rediscovered there almost 400 years ago.

grotto Copyright William MATAR – DiscoverLebanon.com

Here’s a small brief written by Mgr. Georges KWAITER, who was the Greek Melkite Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Saïda and of Deir el-Kamar up until 2011.

The sanctuary of Our Lady of Mantara has its origins in the Holy Gospels. We read in Mark ch. 7, v. 24, that after leaving Genesareth in Palestine Christ went to the region of Tyre and Sidon (now called Saïda) to preach the Good News and to heal the sick. It was at Sidon that he cured the daughter of the Canaanite women possessed of a devil: “Woman, your faith is great.” For his part, Saint Luke says in ch. 6. v. 17 that after having chosen his twelve apostles Jesus “came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal regions of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.”

According to holy tradition the Holy Virgin accompanied her son when he journeyed to Tyre and to Sidon. However, as we know, Jewish women were not allowed to go into pagan cities. Therefore, as Sidon was a Canaanite town and therefore pagan, Mary waited for her son in this grotto at Magdousheh, for the Roman road which ran from Jerusalem to the Lebanese coast passed by this village. Here she waited in prayer and meditation, from which comes the name Our Lady of the Wait – al Mantara. [Full Text]

The grotto was turned into a shrine where people come to honour the Virgin and ask for her grace but the place is largely unknown to plenty of Lebanese and tourists, and the Ministry of Tourism is apparently working on changing that fact. I stumbled upon the video below yesterday and I truly hope that they have a serious plan to put Our Lady of Mantara on the international religious tourism map, along with Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal and of course Medugorje in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

We have a lot of important religious sites in Lebanon and religious tourism can both help put back Lebanon on the religious tourism map and boost the economy, especially in neglected areas like Maghdouche and the South in general.

The Janna Dam is Still a Bad Idea!

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nautre

This is probably the 4th article I write about the Janna dam in the past 4 years and the issue is still causing a controversy. For me, the issue is very simple:

– As long as there are conflicting studies about the dam and no one has a clear answer on its environmental impact, the project should be stopped and no one should be allowed to remove a single tree.

– As long as the authorities don’t have a clear plan to compensate for the thousands of trees cut in order to minimize the environmental impact, knowing that it will take probably 100 years to rebuild what they’re willing to destroy, the dam needs to be stopped.

We are talking about over 400,000 trees and bushes, thousands of plants, animals, mammals and birds that will be put under various levels of endangerment. For that sake, a camp will be organized nexy weekend on Saturday and Sunday at Jannet Artaba to protest against the dam. The gathering is hosted by our friends at LiveLoveBeirut, Deghri Messenger and CyclingCircle.

If you wish to join, read more [here].

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Huawei Mate 8 Review: My First Experience with a Huawei Phone

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Even though Huawei phones have been in the market for quite some time, I’ve never had the chance to use or review any of them. A month ago, I spotted the Messi commercial with the new Mate 8 so I asked Huawei if I could try it out and they sent me a review model for a couple of weeks time, which was good enough for a quick review:

Design/Build:
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The Huawei Mate 8 is a large phone, or phablet in that case, and doesn’t comfortably fit in all hands, just like all 5.5-inch+ smartphones. The slightly curved back does make it easier to hold but it’s still a hassle. The Mate 8 is an all-metal/glass phone and it’s pretty heavy but the metal finish feels premium and solid and the phone boasts a 6-inch screen which makes it one of the smallest 6-inch smartphones on the market. For example, Google Nexus 6P is a bigger phablet with only a 5.7-inch device.

comp1 Huawei Mate 8 vs iPhone 6s, Galaxy S6, LG G4 – via PhoneArena

In terms of design, The Mate 8 is a refined version of the previous Mate 7 but I found its front side to be a bit dull. Its back side on the other hand stands out and is quite nice.

Display/Screen:
I found the screen to be dim and the screen resolution to be too low. I’m surprised it’s only 1080p LCD display and is a major drawback when compared to the competition. I don’t know if I got used to LG and Samsung’s impressive screens over the past years, but most competing smartphones are of far higher quality than this. The resolution is still sharp enough for most situations, but I personally wouldn’t switch from a Quad HD screen to this one.

The only positive aspect about the display is a better battery life, which I will discuss next.

Battery
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If you are looking for a large smartphone with an impressive battery life, then Mate 8 is what you need. There’s a large 4,000 mAh battery tucked inside the large metal body and it would easily last around 36 hours if you’re a heavy user (Emails, Facebook, Instagram, Watching videos, Taking pictures etc …). The quick charge is also supported and can fully charge your dead battery in around 80 minutes.

Camera
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The Huawei Mate 8 relies on a Sony IMX298 16MP front camera and a lens with a f2.0 aperture. The camera can generate up to to 4,608 x 3,456 pixels in resolution and there’s optical image stabilization too. It’s a very good camera, but not a great one but again I am very picky when it comes to phone cameras and I’ve gotten used to impressive Samsung Galaxy S cameras that are very hard to compete with. The only camera that was as impressive as the Samsung’s one is the LG G4 and I’m expecting the G5’s camera to be even better.

Going back to the Mate 8 camera, there are several cool features that are worth mentioning:
– Swiping left or right lets you switch between several modes (Light Painting, Beauty, Time-lapse, video etc ..)
– Selfie addicts will fall in love with the Beauty (Selfie) mode.
– Light-painting mode is pretty cool but you need a tripod to use it properly. Here’s a small sample with the old Huawei P8.
– Mate 8 also offers a professional mode where you can adjust ISO levels, Aperture, white balance etc.
– You can add a watermark also on the picture directly.

Speaking of Huawei cameras, I’m eager to test out the Huawei P9’s camera as it was co-engineered with the one and only Leica.

Here are a couple of pictures I took using my LG G4 and the new Huawei Mate 8.

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Software/Performance/User Experience
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The phone is ultra fast but the software is a little buggy and the interface is not very appealing. I only had a couple of weeks to experiment with the phone and given my experience with other brands, it’s still a matter of time before you get used to the interface. For example, it took me some time to get used to the LG G4’s rear button but now every time I hold a button, that’s the first thing I look for. Similary, Samsung and the iPhone’s home button is a must for me and the Mate 8 doesn’t have that.

I loved the fingerprint sensor, it’s super responsive and fast. The Mate 8 also accepts two SIM cards.

Final Verdict:
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The Mate 8 has a lot of cool features, it’s a solid phone with an exceptional build quality, powerful specs and an outstanding battery life but the display is average, and the design and the camera are good but not great. Here’s a list of pros and cons that might help you decide if you’d consider buying the Mate 8 or not. Price-wise, it’s around $500 which is a tiny bit expensive for what you’re getting.

Pros:
– 6-inch gigantic screen: perfect for browsing, messaging, watching movies or series on the plane etc.
– Impressive battery life.
– Dual SIM.
– Solid build.
– Ultra Fast processor.
– A lot of cool features (Fingerprint sensor, camera options etc…)

Cons:
– Doesn’t comfortably fit in all hands or pockets.
– Low resolution and dim screen.
– Camera is not impressive.

Rating:3/5

#LawChouMaSar, Keep Working in #Lebanon

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lawou

#LawChouMaSar is a new online campaign that was launched few days ago and is a collective call for action from all the productive and creative sectors to keep working in Lebanon no matter what. It’s a nice initiative and I like the fact that CEOs, heads of syndicates and organizations are taking part in it but the fact that most of them are aged 50+ doesn’t really help the campaign.

These people can afford to stay here (up to a certain extent of course) or leave while others don’t have anything to lose and just want to leave this country and try their luck elsewhere. Businesses are struggling and closing everywhere, students are graduating and not finding any jobs or finding mediocre ones and the ever-increasing cost of living is moving more and more Lebanese families are living below poverty line.

What we really need is for the private sector to create a more favorable work environment, to help reduce unemployment, to encourage professionals and young people, to work more actively on problems such as the garbage crisis, to promote productivity in under-performing sectors. The simplest way to provide new opportunities is have a better infrastructure and a better internet yet I barely see anyone pressuring the authorities to fix this serious issue and catch up with our surrounding.

I am sure a lot of those featured in this video are working for that sake. What they need to do is highlight what they’re doing and give Lebanese a more convincing reason to keep working in Lebanon.

Tripoli School Teacher Beats Up Student, Breaks Two Fingers

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kid via lebanonfiles

I still can’t believe these things still happen in Lebanese schools. The kid was apparently beaten up, taken to the hospital and the mother was told that he “fell accidentally” and injured himself. I can’t confirm the details yet but the Education Minister has to investigate what happened and fire that teacher and the principal if the story is confirmed.

The Grand Aley Hotel: Built in 1926, For Sale Since 2008

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This is a cool piece by Dima Karam (The Guardian) on the Grand Aley Hotel that was built in 1926 by three brothers from a Beiruti trading family.

The British Army set up their command center in WWII and then the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) general who led the offensive against Syria and Lebanon used the hotel as his HQ. Following WWII, the hotel “became renowned for its evening entertainment – gambling, concerts and dancing” before it got occupied by mercenaries during the Lebanese Civil War.

The owners were unable to re-open the hotel after the war and the central bank ended up seizing the hotel and putting it up for auction back in 2008. Unfortunately, there are still no potential buyers willing to restore this hotel’s glory.

It’s quite shameful that such a beautiful hotel is abandoned and for sale.

Check out the full article [here].

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The Story of Beirut: A Spectacular Start To The Beirut Cultural Festival

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The Story of Beirut was the centerpiece of the May 17-22 Beirut Cultural Festival and the best possible way to kick off the first edition of these festivals. Using Nejmeh Square’s iconic clock tower as its focal point, the show took us back to the Phoenicians, then the Roman Empire, the Ottoman rule, the French mandate, our independence in 1943, Beirut’s glorious years in the 1960s, the unfortunate civil war and the reconstruction that followed, a moment of silence in 2005 and then a dazzling light show transported us to the 2016 all accompanied with beautiful musical compositions and mixes by Guy Manoukian.

CNN wrote a lengthy article today on The Story of Beirut. I will leave you with these pictures and a small video that I compiled from various parts of the show.

Thumbs up to everyone who made this possible and to the show’s art director Daniel Georr.

Tonight is your last chance to catch the show. You can look for tickets [here].

[YouTube]

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